Vancouver City Council

The Vancouver City Council


Dec. 20, 1999: City Council passes an ethics policy. Code of Ethics, City of Vancouver. PDF File, 258 MB


Sept. 14, 2010: Jeanne Harris has an outburst during City Council meeting and demands mayor “gavel down” a citizen addressing the council. After the meeting ended she tells fellow councilmember Jeanne Stewart to “shut up.” YouTube ‘Gavel Down’ Video

Sept. 14, 2010: Council members Larry Smith and Jack Burkman file the council’s first ethics complaint since the policy was adopted and ask that an Ethics Committee be established. Their complaint notes Harris violated the section to “treat each other with respect and dignity.” Smith and Burkman email as posted on the city’s website.

Sept. 14, 2010: Mayor Leavitt says the council will consider the request at the Sept. 20 meeting. Ethics Committee announced on city’s website.

Sept. 15, 2010: Harris issues a public apology and accepts responsibility but appears less contrite in email correspondence and in several comments on Facebook. Copy of press release on Lew Water’s political blog.

Sept. 20, 2010: Mayor appoints Smith, Burkman and Campbell to Ethics Committee, city manager and staff will participate. Download of wmv file, CVTV website.

Sept. 30, 2010: Ethics Committee meets to review and deliberate ethics complaint. Download of wmv file, CVTV website.

Oct. 5, 2010: City Attorney Ted Gathe presents report and advises that while Harris’ actions were serious they did not rise to the level of forfeiture of office. Committee then recommends letter of reprimand, that reprimand be made public, and asks that Harris be removed from council appointed boards and commissions. Download of wmv file, CVTV website.

Oct. 11, 2010: Mayor reads letter of apology from Harris which begins, “This has been a very difficult time.” Sanctions are put in place against Harris. Council decides ethics code be renamed ‘Ethics and Conduct’ policy and proceeds with general overhaul to update and clarify standards for council member conduct, refine process for reporting, investigating and resolving. Mayor sums up that Harris is a good policy maker and a good person. Download of wmv file, CVTV website.


May 16, 2011: City Council works on draft of new Ethics and Conduct policy. Treatment of citizens is slated to be included in the document. During this meeting, a retired judge or hearings examiner is offered as replacement to having council members sit on an ethics committee. Jeanne Harris insists that “conduct” be separated from ethics in the document, “We have handled ourselves miserably when it comes to this issue.” She seems to claim she has been attacked for 8 to 12 weeks prior to her Sept. 13 outburst, which drove her to the misconduct. Larry Smith reminds Harris it was her behavior that led to sanctions.

Harris complains she did not get a chance to face her accusers because she was out of the country, “What you did was not fair.” Pat Campbell notes he was not happy with the process, suggests it should have been sent to separate entity, claims “someone pushed to make this go viral,” and claims he was threatened. Jeanne Stewart is shocked by Campbell’s assertions that it was an unfair process charging that it needed to be said during the committee process or the night it came to the council.”

Harris replies, “Well, it couldn’t be said. It could not be said because of the emotions.”

“The past is the past, we’re moving forward,” says the mayor. Download of wmv file, CVTV website.

June 20, 2011: Policy substantially rewritten with a focus on process and procedure, councilmember brought up on ethical violations has opportunity to more “engaged in the process,” charges must be filed with both City Council and city manager, city attorney to review the charges and decide if complaint rises to level of ethics violation, if yes, a hearing officer will review the facts and report back to council. A a time limit should be established file complaint. Discussion on criminal vs. civil activity, potential conflicts of interest. Items left to be defined will be discussed next month and will include what the term “personal knowledge” means. Downloads wmv file, CVTV website.

June 23, 2011: Rob Kremer, sitting in for the Lars Larsen radio show, reads excerpts from an email Harris’ wrote from her City of Vancouver email address where she charges her outburst during the “gavel down” incident happened on a bad day and was  “orchestrated” by a “right-wing anti-government Christian.” Audio can be downloaded for a fee from Lars Larson website:

July 11, 2011: Council revisits ethics and conduct policy draft. Decide to have a hearings examiner review violations and make report to city without offering an opinion. No remedies adopted for council member who might violate conduct policy. Mayor removes conduct section from ethics policy. Council appears to proceed without a policy on how members will conduct themselves at city council meetings. Stewart calls review “almost a farce.”  Apparently, not a big deal for Harris. Downloads wmv file, CVTV website.